Sound, Speech, Music in Soviet and Post-Soviet Cinema
Publication Year: 2014
This innovative volume challenges the ways we look at both cinema and cultural history by shifting the focus from the centrality of the visual and the literary toward the recognition of acoustic culture as formative of the Soviet and post-Soviet experience. Leading experts and emerging scholars from film studies, musicology, music theory, history, and cultural studies examine the importance of sound in Russian, Soviet, and post-Soviet cinema from a wide range of interdisciplinary perspectives. Addressing the little-known theoretical and artistic experimentation with sound in Soviet cinema, changing practices of voice delivery and translation, and issues of aesthetic ideology and music theory, this book explores the cultural and historical factors that influenced the use of voice, music, and sound on Soviet and post-Soviet screens.
Published by: Indiana University Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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This volume came about as a result of our mutual frustration with the lack of English-language materials on sound in Soviet and post-Soviet cinema. In it, we have tried to bring together new work by scholars from several disciplines, providing a larger historical framework for the discussion of the “sonic turn”...
Note on Transliteration
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List of Abbreviations
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Kira Muratova, one of the most celebrated and original contemporary Russian film auteurs, was asked in a 1995 interview what she had learned from her film-school mentor Sergei Gerasimov, whose filmmaking was so distinct from hers. She answered that he taught her “to listen and to hear, awakening [in her]...
Part I. From Silence to Sound
1. From the History of Graphic Sound in the Soviet Union; or, Media without a Medium
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Typically, the term cinema is reserved exclusively for moving images captured on a filmstrip by means of a photographic (i.e., positive-negative) process, capable of reproducing physical reality. Until now very little has been written about another, equally expressive and significant cinematic technique of the “optical...
2. Silents, Sound, and Modernism in Dmitry Shostakovich’s Score to The New Babylon
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Although widely regarded by scholars and general audiences as one of the greatest of the last “silent” films, Novyi Vavilon (New Babylon, dir. Kozintsev and Trauberg, 1929) was initially a surprising failure. Even with its original score by the celebrated composer Dmitry Shostakovich, the film failed to fully satisfy...
3. To Catch Up and Overtake Hollywood: Early Talking Pictures in the Soviet Union
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One generally associates Hollywood’s influence on Soviet cinema with the musical comedies directed by Grigori Alexandrov after 1934, or with the grandiose plans conceived in 1935—following Boris Shumyatsky’s trip to Hollywood— of a studio built in the Crimea, entirely outfitted with American...
4. ARRK and the Soviet Transition to Sound
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In the middle of 1931, four years after The Jazz Singer (dir. Crosland, 1927) premiered in New York and three years after the first public demonstration of Soviet experiments with sound film, an editorial of the Soviet journal Proletarskoe kino (Proletarian Cinema) reproduced a dialogue with an imaginary reader...
5. Making Sense without Speech: The Use of Silence in Early Soviet Sound Film
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Abram Room’s 1936 film Strogii iunosha (A Severe Youth), with a screenplay by Yury Olesha, opens in silence. Its credits run to an entirely silent sound track, as does the first visual sequence, which comprises a succession of filmed objects. The camera eye moves through venetian blinds to a table set with a vase of...
Part II. Speech and Voice
6: The Problem of Heteroglossia in Early Soviet Sound Cinema (1930–35)
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Let me start with a clarification: the problem of heteroglossia or multilingualism (raznoiazychie) in early Soviet sound cinema is a problem for today’s film historians; the filmmakers and film critics of the period did not consider it as such. Indeed, one of the artists who used multiple untranslated languages as a...
7: Challenging the Voice of God in World War II–Era Soviet Documentaries
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In 1943, a documentary of the battle of Moscow (Razgrom nemetskikh voisk pod Moskvoi) titled Moscow Strikes Back won the Soviet Union its first Oscar. This version of the film had discarded the original voice-over and added a new one, written by Albert Maltz and read by Edward G. Robinson. This was not an...
8: Vocal Changes: Marlon Brando, Innokenty Smoktunovsky, and the Sound of the 1950s
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The best studies of voice in film—by Michel Chion or Kaja Silverman—have examined disembodied, formless voices, voices as phantoms.1 However, signs of social and temporal anchoring of the electric voice—as part of the medial body— have been neglected by film theory. One does not have to be Professor Higgins...
9: Listening to the Inaudible Foreign: Simultaneous Translators and Soviet Experience of Foreign Cinema
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For decades, Natalia Razlogova had a recurring dream: she enters a film translator’s booth and puts on the headphones. The audience is clamoring outside— they can hear the film, they demand the translation, but she hears nothing. She cannot translate; the foreign film is completely inaudible to her.1 This story...
Part III. Music in Film; or, The Sound Track
10: Kinomuzyka: Theorizing Soviet Film Music in the 1930s
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In December 1926, a small German crew disembarked in Soviet Russia. There they entertained audiences with the Tri-Ergon system, a technological curiosity that captured both moving images and the accompanying sound on film. Similar Soviet-made systems soon followed, most notably from the workshop of Pavel...
11: Listening to Muzykal’naia istoriia (1940)
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On the day of its Moscow premiere, October 18, 1940, the musical comedy Muzykal’naia istoriia (A Musical Story), scripted by Evgeny Petrov and Georgy Munblit, directed by Alexander Ivanovsky and Gerbert Rappoport, and starring Sergei Lemeshev and Zoia Fedorova, had already received warm official welcomes...
12: The Music of Landscape: Eisenstein, Prokofiev, and the Uses of Music in Ivan the Terrible
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Sergei Eisenstein wrote repeatedly about sound and music in cinema, from his contribution to the collective “Statement on Sound,” co-authored with Vsevolod Pudovkin and Grigori Alexandrov in 1928, through his discussion of audiovisual cinema and “vertical montage” in the montage essays of 1938 to...
13: The Full Illusion of Reality: Repentance, Polystylism, and the Late Soviet Soundscape
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In a perestroika-era manifesto from 1988 called “Cinema without Cinema,” Russian cultural historian and critic Mikhail Yampolsky decried the focus on language in Soviet film, noting that the “Soviet film mentality” was “essentially logocentric.”3 Yampolsky argued instead for greater recognition of the total film...
14: Russian Rock on Soviet Bones
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Valery Todorovsky’s 2008 film Stilyagi (The Hipsters) opens with a scene at a local Soviet clinic. A patient has come for a chest X-ray, complaining of a severe cough. We hear the nurse scolding him for excessive smoking, we see the X-rays produced and examined, but it is only when we see the same X-ray plate being...
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Page Count: 314
Illustrations: 24 b&w
Publication Year: 2014